Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 07, 2018 at 6:34 pm.


–OUT: T Terron Armstead (pectoral)

–OUT: S Justin Evans (toe), WR DeSean Jackson (thumb), S Isaiah Johnson (concussion)

–DOUBTFUL: CB Carlton Davos (knee)

–QUESTIONABLE: T Demar Dotson (hamstring), CB Brent Grimes (knee), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), CB M.J. Stewart (foot)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: QB Drew Brees is coming off his worst game of the season, having completed 18-of-28 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception, just his third of the season. The Saints’ 176 total yards are the fewest since Brees and head coach Sean Payton arrived in 2006. Neither Brees nor the offense performs poorly very often, but when either happens, Brees usually plays very well the following game and Tampa Bay is 28th in pass defense (274.4 yards per game).

GAME PLAN: Win the turnover battle. This should be fairly easy, given that the Saints are plus-9 and the Bucs are minus-18. But during their two-game winning streak, the Buccaneers have six takeaways and have given the ball away just once and in the first meeting the Bucs have two takeaways and the Saints have none. Tampa Bay will need to have an advantage in turnovers to win again. If the Saints are able to avoid a turnover deficit they should be in good shape. They’ll try to get WR Michael Thomas back on track after three relatively quiet games and feed the Bucs a steady dose of Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara. They have 16 sacks in the last four games and hope to continue that kind of pressure to force Jameis Winston into mistakes.

–Saints CB Marshon Lattimore vs. Bucs WR Mike Evans. These two have had some passionate battles in three meetings since Lattimore entered the league last season. Evans shoved Lattimore in the back during the first meeting last season when he had just one catch (on six targets) for 13 yards. In the rematch, Evans had five catches (on 13 targets) for 55 yards. But in the first meeting this season, Evans had a catch on all seven targets for 147 yards and a touchdown. Evans is always a key to the Bucs’ getting their No. 1 pass offense going and Lattimore is always the Saints’ No. 1 weapon in their pass coverage. If either player has an appreciable advantage in this matchup it will be a significant advantage for their team.

–Saints OL vs. Bucs DL. The Saints would receive a boost if LT Terron Armstead is able to return from his pectoral injury, and the Bucs would receive a boost if DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) is able to play. The Saints prevented Pierre-Paul from getting to Drew Brees in the first game, though Tampa Bay did have one sack. Pierre-Paul has 11.5 sacks since then. New Orleans has allowed an NFL-low 13 sacks, but they gave up two and struggled in pass protection overall against Dallas. If the Saints are going to have the kind of bounce-back performance on offense that they expect, the line will have to play better than it did last time out and do a better job of protecting Brees.